tofino kayaking - keeping it simple

Keeping It Simple

by Dan Lewis, Tofino


It's kind of ironic, isn't it? We go to the wilderness around Tofino to leave our hopelessly cluttered, relentlessly frenetic quotidien lives behind. But then we go full circle, and re-create the consumer culture, replete with gadgets and gizmos.

Perhaps the answer is to learn to minimise our impact as much as possible - to reduce the size of our ecological footprint. I've always had an affinity for the concept of voluntary simplicity. For me, this means separating my wants from my needs, trying to consume as little as possible, and leading a life focussed on fulfilment rather than acquisition. And kayaking fits the bill! There is less material in a kayak than almost any other watercraft. Once built, no fuel is needed other than food. And my kayaking experiences are certainly fulfiling, providing interactions with nature I wouldn't otherwise have.

One of the principles of voluntary simplicity is to buy functional, durable goods. This doesn't always mean the cheapest, nor does it necessarily mean the most expensive. Shop around, ask around before making purchases. Another is to care for gear - rinsing off salt, storing things out of direct sunlight. Thirdly, wear things out - not to the point of endangering your health or safety, but to use it up before replacing it. Finally, mend or repair gear instead of discarding it.

My own approach to sea kayaking gear is minimalist. I don't like to spend all my time fussing with gear while on trips, so I try to take as little as possible. I bring enough to be comfortable in the worst conditions imaginable - and a wee bit more.

For me, this looks like one bomber set of shore clothes, including raingear and gumboots. And a pair of nylon shorts just in case! Another set of clothes is for paddling (farmer john wetsuit if solo, winter or open coast). This set includes neoprene booties, paddling jacket and so'wester rainhat.

My bedding has gotten pretty deluxe - I guess I'm softening in middle age. After holding out for 15 years, I finally got one of those newfangled inflatable foam pad - and I didn't fuss around. I got the big, thick one. Of course I bring a sleeping bag - synthetic fill so it will still be my ace in the hole for preventing heat loss even if its wet. And now I bring a down pillow (why not? it weighs nothing, packs down small, and I save a fortune on chiropractor bills).

As for shelter I eschew tents in favour of a tarp. Something about going to all this trouble to get Outside, and then crawling Inside to sleep - doesn't compute. Give me a 9 x 12 tarp and a gore-tex bivvy sac any day. Nothing like waking to watch mergansers gliding past at eye level. Or waking up facing off with a slug!

Other than that my camp gear is pretty minimal. A few good pots, a cup, bowl knife and spoon. A camp chair. One good book, a pair of binos, and a journal round it out. I take a stove, or sometimes a grill to cook over micro-fires.

And food, ah yes, food! That's a whole ' nother story…

Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck operate Rainforest Kayak Adventures. a sea kayak company in Tofino and Clayoquot Sound. Visit their website or call them at 1-877-422-WILD

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Tofino writer and sea kayaking maven Dan Lewis writes about the importance of minimalism in wilderness kayaking equipment choices.

tofino time june 2002

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